Meet Our Team: David Hilborn

David Hilborn, Product Manager of BitTorrent Surf

On Thursday, we introduced you to BitTorrent Surf, a new Alpha designed to enable in-browser torrent discovery and download. Today, we’d like you to meet David Hilborn: the guy who managed the release, from whiteboard to real world.

Find out more about the team’s inspiration, the journey to Alpha, and what Dave does when he’s not killing it at BitTorrent.

Dave, tell us a little bit about your role here at BitTorrent. 

I have a hybrid role as the Product Manager and User Experience Designer for BitTorrent Surf – the best new content discovery tool on the Internet.

What was your team’s inspiration for Surf?

Our inspiration was a desire to solve a basic problem, which we discovered many other users had. It was how to make content discovery easier in the torrent experience. With most content discovery happening in a browser, the answer was obvious – bring BT into the browser. But to reach a wider audience, we had to make it simple and seamless.

Can you tell us a little about your team’s journey to launch?

While some believe Surf started with a winning Palooza (editor’s note: these are internal hackathons where engineers work on projects related to BitTorrent) project, it actually started two months prior with user discovery interviews and iterative click-through mockups. The Palooza project was our PoC. After we had a working PoC we continued to iterate in-between user interviews until we had a solid design. The whole team worked in a collaborative manner with user data as the most important factor for guiding our decisions as to what features were highlighted or obfuscated.

How is Surf different from traditional BitTorrent?

Simple, seamless discovery and downloading. While BitTorrent and µTorrent are the most widely used torrent clients, they are perceived by new and novice users as too complicated. We created Surf to address those users. But that’s just the beginning. We will reveal more of what Surf can do in the Beta release.

How long have you been a BitTorrent user?

13 years.

What is the last thing you downloaded?

I download everything from legitimate file sharing networks and our own featured content, continually. My personal favorite was our release of Death Grips. I also love Ted Talks.

Where are you from?

All over. I grew up bi-coastal in New Jersey, Northern and Southern California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts… I have spent most of my adult life in Northern California.

How’d you end up at BitTorrent? Why did you decide to come here?

I have worked with our VP of Engineering, Ilan, at two previous companies and many of the other employees here from Check Point. I had been looking for a company that places high value on user experience and collaborative development systems since leaving Check Point in 2009.

I spent a year-and-a-half at OnLive before its implosion and was burned out by its very top-down management style. BitTorrent provided an environment that allowed me to grow my ideas and collaborate more closely with engineers instead of chaining me to my desk. It really is the best work environment I have ever experienced and I am happy to be here.

How long have you been here?

A year-and-a-half now.

What’s the best part of your job? What do you like about working at BitTorrent?

Talking to users. Finding out what they want and how you can solve their problems and make them happy is what I do.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about a lot of things. At the heart of it, though, is a passion for art, technology, and collaborative problem solving.

What keeps you busy in your free time?

My wife and 4 dogs keep me pretty busy around the house. Things are pretty hectic right now but when they settle down, I will get back to my motorcycles and maybe a new Art Car project with my wife, Rebecca.

What’s something that not everybody knows about you? 

As previously mentioned, I like motorcycles. I supported myself in college as a freelance mechanic operating out of my warehouse loft in West Oakland. I have built over 20 motorcycles from the ground up; mostly old Hondas. I still have a 1969 BMW R60US that I have taken on two Moto Melee’s (2005, 2006).

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